The fabric shop, and our biggest marketing mistake


Kim had a passion for textiles: colour, thread count, texture and fibres… they were her loves. And so she opened a business to sell fabric. Not just any fabric, but the best. Italian cottons, French linen, costume brocade and William Morris prints… a gorgeous effuserie of touchable hues.

On the very first day, Kim’s heart was full of dreams of freedom and potential. Through a rising choir, her heart announced that her fabric shop was going to be magnificent.

Her head, however, was thinking, “MUST MAKE CASH BY FRIDAY.”

Every time she made a decision, her heart and head started a vicious tug-of-war. Her heart cried, “We want to be bold, to be transcendent, to create, to be whimsical! We want to do the work that no-one else can do!” Her head muttered, “Look, can we make enough to pay the rent first? I’m on board once we take care of the essentials.”

To keep her head happy, Kim made some compromises. She advertised in wholesale magazines and made a big sale to a Taiwanese import group who clearly didn’t care about the fabric but knew they could get a good price for it. She made special offers to schools and sold bolts of cloth to students who “had” to sew a pair of shorts and planned to throw them out after.

The fabric shop was making decent money, but Kim’s soul was dying. After head and heart fought a vicious 3am guerilla war across her pillow for the sixth night running, Kim’s heart won.

The sign went up the next morning.


Kim started demanding that her customers explain why this fabric appealed to them and was a better choice than any of the others.

A number of interior decorators were banned from the shop forever, and a few others were given special invitations to locked-door previews of the next season’s prints.

Orders started flooding in from designers in four different countries (Kim could speak passion in any language), and one noted Hollywood costume designer flew out just to browse her jacquards.

Kim’s business was finally magnificent.

The mistake we all make

Kim knew who her Bestest People were, but she didn’t market to them.

She ignored the people who could actually appreciate her work, in order to grab the attention of people who didn’t care. And because they didn’t care, she had to push and force and discount and make her work a thousand times less glorious to make it acceptable.

When said like this, it’s a ridiculous mistake to make. Why would you chase the disinterested instead of proudly displaying your goods – your greats – to the oh-so-interested?

Because we see our empty shop or website and we think ohshitohshitohshit. (Nature’s got nothing on us when it comes to abhoring that vacuum.) We’re so desperate to fill that empty space that we grab wildly at whoever’s walking past.

The dude who just happens to be wandering by probably doesn’t give a damn about what you have to offer. Crap! Well, we can’t lose him, so… let’s make some changes. He doesn’t like it to be spicy? Voilร ! It’s less spicy. He doesn’t think it’s worth it at that price? Price dropped!

All of a sudden you have a business and marketing plan designed to attract someone who is never really going to value what you have to offer.

That’s fucking crazy.

The new plan

  1. Figure out who would love the hell out of what you do, with no cajoling.
  2. Market to them. Lovingly ignore everyone else.
  3. Make a lot of money, and love it.

Goddamn Radiant is here to help. In three hours, you and I will kick everyone out of the shop that doesn’t deserve the magnificence we both know you can deliver. Because you and your offerings deserve no less.

Creative Commons License photo credit: cuttlefish

40 thoughts on “The fabric shop, and our biggest marketing mistake

  1. Big DEEP LOVE FOR THIS CATHERINE! Good god! This is brilliant! I think I need a focus group of my most lovely loving clients, that are just like the ones I want to attract!

      1. hee, hee, and I can’t wait. Btw, meant to tell you how much I enjoyed the more structured form of the new Provocateur Session. The freeform Awesome Chat was juicy too but I was ready for more direction, I think.

    1. Brilliant. this is such a freeing concept. that the way to business success is through being ourselves, really being ourselves, not compromising who we are.



    So here’s something that it set off in my mind – when is it ok to modify things for someones request?

    The spicyness example makes me wonder…. I know a fair amount about food, but very little about the restaurant business. But I know I’d be more then a bit annoyed if my favorite Indian restaurant ( if you’re curious) served all the food very spicy rather then asking what level of spice I wanted.

    As I write this, it occurs to me that by asking they at least suggest that it’s part of what they *want* to do for their people, rather then something that’s killing them inside – so that seems to suggest that it would be ok, good even.


    at least I know what I want for dinner now. off to Indian food.


    1. Hello there Angel and thank you!

      How could I not be excited to have someone on board who talks about gratitude… and even uses the word “joy” to explain it? ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. I’ve had people tell me that I’d lose business because I’m so personal & heartfelt on my blog. But I’ve also connected to some awesome people who appreciate my thoughts & beliefs, and I’m all the better for it. ๐Ÿ˜€

  4. For some reason the phrase “just to browse her jacquards” is making me smile. Must be the end of a long day.

    A good day, though, in which I wrote for my Bestest People: the ones who realise that if it matters you have to work at it, and love it that I get that.

  5. this post really resonated with me and i shared with the mums on my blog/fb page – build a little biz – and i have had many of them tell me they loved this.
    am loving your posts so far on this new blog! i have signed up for the newsletter and can’t wait to see what comes next =)

  6. Of course I LOVE a story about spending our time and effort digging our heels in deeper to “this is me!” rather than exhausting the energy we have for the digging by by zigging this way and that. As you so wonderfully said in your inimitable style, to what end?

    Your post would also be a great “Read This First!” on every dating site!

  7. U kicksass. I am soo tired from pre-dawn warfare I could scream. Thanks for reminding me what’s important.

  8. Her heart cried, โ€œWe want to be bold, to be transcendent, to create, to be whimsical! We want to do the work that no-one else can do!โ€ Her head muttered, โ€œLook, can we make enough to pay the rent first? Iโ€™m on board once we take care of the essentials.โ€

    God/dess, YES!!!

    Because we see our empty shop or website and we think ohshitohshitohshit. (Natureโ€™s got nothing on us when it comes to abhoring that vacuum.) Weโ€™re so desperate to fill that empty space that we grab wildly at whoeverโ€™s walking past


    It’s so hard to stand true to yourself – that’s why it’s easier to give it away.
    Looking forward to finding out the how of doing BOTH!!!

    May I once again point out the benefits of a Daily E-mail Sign-up, pretty please? I do not want to have to wait a week for the Doses of Joyous Goodness!

    Make it easy for me to come love on you! ๐Ÿ˜€

  9. Catherine you wonderful person, this is where you have gotten me. Thanks for helping me see this.

    I’m thinking about what I have to offer in the same way I used to think about products I used to sell for other people.

    I couldn’t change anything about the products they made, so it was a pretty easy decision not to spend any time doing that. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Next step, apply the 80/20 to my universe of customers, and spend all my time with the people who had a demonstrated desire for the product I was selling, “as is” rather than with the people who said things like, “I wish it could do this, or that it had that…”

    It can’t. It doesn’t.

    But if that is what you want, there’s probably something that can, or does, and let me do you the favor of making sure you don’t spend any more time with me, when you could be spending it with someone who does have what you’re looking for.

    (I wonder how the numbers worked out for Harriet. Do you think the 80/20 rule would have been observed there if anyone had been keeping track? The concept, whatever the actual number, does seem to have played out pretty universally.)

    I’m going 100% with my 20% to get my 1000 escorted safely out.

    Mwah, from all of us.

Comments are closed.